With an intriguing group of prospects ready to show their wares and a large opening night crowd waiting in eager anticipation, everything was in line for a great night of baseball for the Tacoma Rainiers on April 12. But Mother Nature intervened at Cheney Stadium, and the Rainiers ultimately fell 8-4 in the contest that was resumed on April 13.
Before the hard rains came, Rainiers starting pitcher James Paxton was giving the fans a show of his own. The big left-hander struck out six batters in four and two-thirds innings while touching as high as 98 miles per hour on the radar gun.
“James has done a real god job of getting command of his breaking pitches, which he did not have last year,” said Rainiers manager Daren Brown. “His velocity was great. His progression is coming along nicely to this point.”
But he ran into trouble with his control in the fifth inning, walking three batters and giving up three hits as he gave way to Lucas Luetge, who inherited a 5-0 deficit.
“I started to aim my pitches in the fifth inning when I should have just stayed with regular arm slots in the early part of the game,” Paxton said. “But I’ll get back to doing that my next start.”
Another interested observer of Paxton’s efforts on Friday was catcher Mike Zunino, who has been tearing it up offensively early in the season. The Golden Spikes award winner in 2012 from the University of Florida, Zunino was happy with Paxton’s effort. “James had some great velocity to go along with his curveball tonight. He’s going to be great before this season is over.”
The Rainiers’ offense, meanwhile, was having a tough time solving Salt Lake right handed pitcher A.J. Schugel, who gave up two hits and struck out seven in four innings of work. Tacoma’s one threat came in the second inning. But with runners on second and third with two outs, center fielder Denny Almonte struck out to end the inning.
After the game resumed the following day, Salt Lake would add on to their lead, scoring one run in both the seventh and the eighth innings for a 7-0 lead. The Rainiers’ bats came alive in the bottom of the eighth to make this a game. Carlos Peguero and Rich Poythress both drove in a pair of runs in the inning, but it would not be enough as the Bees would add another run in the ninth to close out the scoring and the 8-4 win for Salt Lake.
In the seven-inning regularly scheduled game that followed, Salt Lake rallied for two runs off of Tacoma reliever Danny Farquhar in the seventh to take a 4-3 win over the Rainiers.